Doubling down on the middle market – CMO Talks with Clare Dorrian

The volatility of COVID-19 caught organizations off guard, yet many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) did more than survive. By accelerating digitization, they managed to thrive, which for Clare Dorrian, Chief Marketing Officer for SugarCRM, is a modern day story of David and Goliath.

A marketing strategist who believes in the power of stories, Dorrian joined ITWC CMO Fawn Annan for a November 2021 installment of CMO Talks, a podcast series designed by ITWC to showcase strategies for gaining a competitive edge through the intersection of marketing and technology. Their 30-minute discussion focused on Dorrian’s role in repositioning SugarCRM for the mid-size market.

Building on Mid-market Success

Clare Dorrian
Clare Dorrian – Chief Marketing Officer, SugarCRM
“As we look at the CRM space, there are several players who are trying to straddle everything from enterprise all the way down to SMB and everything in between,” said Dorrian. “It had become very clear to both my predecessor at SugarCRM and the executive team that it was mid-market where we had been successful and where we ought to double down.”

Prioritizing the Story

In discussing her approach, Dorrian described the “ah ha” moment when she realized that SugarCRM’s messaging did not really reflect the essence and purpose of the company. “I heard several different interpretations from customers, partners and industry commentators,” she recalled. “If that wasn’t a signal that priority number one needed to be our story, then I don’t know what was.”

SugarCRM had transitioned from being an open source platform vendor to become more of a customer service marketing and sales software solution vendor, so it was critical to crystallize the company’s message, while at the same time keeping it memorable and meaningful for the company’s market. “We needed a message that appealed to all of our audiences equally and reflected the breadth and capability of our current offerings,” said Dorrian.

Practicing What They Preach

As a mid-market growth company that targets mid-market growth companies, SugarCRM practises what it preaches by using their own marketing automation and customer service software to help them succeed. “This has been a very, very deliberate choice,” said Dorrian. Another intentional choice was to strip away the technical acronyms that litter the messaging of many of SugarCRM’s competitors. “If there’s one thing I know about the growing mid-market business, and I think it holds true for small businesses as well, it’s that we don’t like to dress things up,” said Dorrian. “We like things to be very clear, very direct, and pretty fast paced.”

Points of Pride

As to a question from Annan about how to create customers for life, Dorrian proudly pointed to SugarCRM’s fundamental belief that being big enough to matter, but small enough to care, is what helps their customers identify with the company. “Having customers for life starts with a true partnership,” she said, “and that starts with the customer’s success – not the vendor’s success in mind.”

Dorrian is also proud to be on a journey that leverages AI to extend limited CRM data and help brands connect with customers in an empathic way. Not only does this increase customer satisfaction and boost the bottom line, but it also helps marketing professionals better understand and deliver on customer needs. “Humans just aren’t designed to see trends and patterns across millions and trillions of pieces of data, and quite frankly, who wants to spend their time doing that?” she asked.

Some Timely Advice

The podcast concluded with Dorrian’s advice for CMOs who plan to adopt marketing technology to promote efficiencies. Her first suggestion was to automate unfulfilling administrative tasks and free employees up for more rewarding work. The second piece of advice was to be clear on the business challenge. “Unfortunately, I have seen too many projects get off the ground with no real outcome in mind,” she said.

The podcast ended, as it began, with an allusion to David and Goliath, as Dorrian explained how a global pandemic reinforced the advantage of smaller companies when it comes to being nimble. “Don’t overlook the significance of your brand, and don’t overlook the significance of having a resilient team,” she said. “Who knows when the next pandemic is coming and who knows what your CEO is going to ask of you next.”

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Suzanne Robicheau
Suzanne Robicheau
Suzanne Robicheau is a communications specialist based in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, where working remotely continues to fuel her passion for new mobile technologies -- especially on snowy days.

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